• Cannon Classics Double Feature: Death Wish IV: The Crackdown / Death Wish 5: The Face Of Death

    Released by: Umbrella Entertainment
    Released on: May 2nd, 2018.
    Director: J. Lee Thompson/Allan A. Goldstein
    Cast: Charles Bronson, John P. Ryan, Dana Barron, Key Lenz, Lesley-Anne Down, Michael Parks, Chuck Shamata, Saul Rubinek
    Year: 1987/1994
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    The Movie:

    Umbrella Entertainment follows up their first Death Wish sequel double feature (reviewed here) with the final two films in the franchise!

    Death Wish IV: The Crackdown:

    Erica Sheldon (Dana Barron of National Lampoon's Vacation) is a normal teenage girl and the daughter of Karen Sheldon (Kay Lenz), architect Paul Kersey's new girlfriend. Together the three of them live happily in Los Angeles (where Kersey has once again returned after the events that took place in New York City in the third film), that is until one night, when out with her boyfriend, Erica dies of a drug overdose.

    Kersey does some investigating on his own and starts to track down the gangsters responsible for Erica's overdose, and quickly finds that the drug problem is running rampant in the city of angels. Kersey learns that there are actually two rival gangs involved in the illegal narcotics trade, so he does what he can to turn the two gangs against each other. It's here that the film takes a turn into Yojimbo territory as through Kersey's doing, the gangs start killing each other off.

    Of course, the police are going to get involved, and they do, though with some reluctance. Most of the cops are ok with the thugs killing each other off as it saves them from having to put any more effort into bringing them in - but Kersey's actions aren't going unnoticed.

    The gritty realism of the first two films of the series and the rampant, over the top violence of the third are missing from this fourth entry in the series that Cannon films refused to put to rest. Bronson was no spring chicken when this was made and at times, he seems like he doesn't want to be there. Those moments aside though, he's entertaining as always, delivering the great tough guy dialogue we've come to expect from his most famous character and doing it all with his trademark stone faced look. Aged or not, he’s still got that ‘tough guy’ thing going on and while there are moments where reality is stretched a little bit, this is still very much Bronson’s show through and through. That said, a great supporting turn from the mighty John P. Ryan is noteworthy, as is a brief but amusing appearance from a young Danny Trejo.

    Veteran action director J. Lee Thompson doesn't bring much of interest to the table in terms of style or visual flair but the movie is well paced and efficient. Most of the camera movements and setups are quite basic, even simplistic sometimes, but Thompson gets the job done well enough despite a few technical goof ups (one explosion is noticeably superimposed and is obviously fake and there are some obvious dummies used in some of the action scenes). This isn’t his best film or his best collaboration with Bronson but they turn in solid workmanlike material here.

    Even with a few strikes against it though, Death Wish 4 – The Crackdown isn't total bottom of the barrel material. It's entertaining enough if you keep your expectations lowered and the film does deliver plenty of action – and the movie definitely ends on a pretty amazing note, with a showdown between the main good guy and bad guy that immediately follows a shoot-out that takes place around the video games in a roller disco! Dated? Yeah, definitely, but still a pretty amazing scene.

    Death Wish V: The Face Of Death:

    Directed (and partially written) by Allan A. Goldstein and released in 1994 when Bronson was seventy-one years, Death Wish V: The Face Of Death is certainly an example of the law of diminishing returns when it comes to sequels – but at the same time, fans will appreciate seeing Bronson in the role that made him a household name one last time.

    When the film begins, architect Paul Kersey (Bronson, of course, in what would be his final theatrical film – and in fact, it went straight to video in some territories), has left the West Coast and moved back to his native New York City (or at least Toronto doubling for New York). This time around, he’s involved with his lovely – and much younger - fiancée, a fashion designer named Olivia Regent (Lesley-Anne Down). Things are going well and he’s looking forward to putting a ring on her finger and helping her raise her daughter Chelsea (Erica Fairfield, credited as Erica Lancaster). Of course, being married to Paul Kersey is a death wish in and of itself, so rather predictably we soon find Olivia dead at the hands of some goons when Chelsea the victim of a kidnapping.

    It turns out that the man behind this was Olivia’s ex-husband, Tommy O’Shea (Michael Parks), a high-ranking criminal who runs a protection racket and is none too happy about the way his personal life has turned out. Proving that old habits do in fact die hard, an aging Kersey puts on a black jacket and stocks up on guns and ammo to see that justice is served. As the bodies pile up, NYPD officer Brian Hoyle (Saul Rubinek) tries to figure out what’s up with all the killings going on and how they may or may not tie into Kersey’s infamous past.

    Produced by Menahem Golan through 21st Century Film Corporation after Cannon Films fell frame grace, Death Wish V doesn’t reinvent the wheel, thought it is a noticeably lighter and more humorous entry in the series. Yes, Kersey still kills a bunch of people that are pretty much asking for it but he’s quicker with the wisecracks this time around and the whole thing feels very cartoonish. Cartoonish worked well in the over-the-top Death Wish 3, but here it comes off as more than a little goofy. Kersey makes jokes about dandruff and hygiene… it’s kind of odd. Still, it’s Bronson in his signature role and even if he was well past retirement age at this point in his career, he’s still got that screen presence that made him the icon that he was. That counts for a fair bit, really. Michael Parks makes for a fun villain and Saul Rubinek is decent in his supporting part – but really, you watch this one for motherfuckin’ Charlie Bronson.

    Production values are on the lower end of the spectrum when compared to the earlier films. It’s clearly Toronto and not NYC where the action is taking place (though how obvious that will be to some will depend on how familiar they are with both locales – having lived in both cities that could just be a ‘me thing!’). There isn’t quite as much action in this one as there were in the past films, but the movie is paced well and decently shot. Again, it’s the lesser of the five films but not without its merit – and centering a vigilante film around the early 90s fashion scene means that there’s a fair bit of wonky style on display.


    Umbrella Entertainment brings both films to Blu-ray on a single 50GB disc framed at 1.85.1 in AVC encoded 1080p high definition and generally speaking both films look very nice on Blu-ray. Surprisingly enough, the 4th film looks quite a bit better than the 5th film. It’s pretty clean, showing only minor print damage in the form of small specks here and there, nothing much heavier than that at all. The fifth film does show a bit more damage, but it’s never overpowering. Both show solid texture, depth and detail and advance quite handily over previous DVD incarnations. Compression is also better on the 4th film than the 5th, but everything is more than watchable here. Both transfers are quite film-like, showing no obvious edge enhancement or noise reduction and a natural amount of expected film grain. Skin tones look quite natural throughout and black levels are decent (though again, better in the earlier film than the later one).

    Each film is given a DTS-HD in English, with optional subtitles provided in English only. The first film is mono, the second is stereo. Both tracks sound decent, offering clear dialogue and properly balanced levels. Sound effects have some decent punch behind them and there are no issues with any hiss or distortion to note.

    The main reason to dig through the extras on this set is the two audio commentary tracks provided by Paul Talbot. Nobody does Bronson commentaries better than he, and if you’ve heard his other work on the U.S. releases of Death Wish 2 and Cabo Blanco, you’ll know what to expect – super detailed history and trivia delivered with a good sense of humor and coupled with some interesting observations about the movies. Given that the man literally wrote the book on these movies, it should come as no surprise that Talbot delivers his content with a lot of genuine enthusiasm and love for the productions. You want to hear about Bronson’s relationship with J. Lee Thompson? Where some of the ideas came from for these sequels? How Goldstein wound up directing part 5? What about the guns that are used in the movies? The background and bit part players? It’s all covered, as are locations, script revisions, production details, the Golan/Globus connection and loads more.

    Aside from that we get theatrical trailers for each film, two TV spots for Death Wish 4, VHS promos for each film, a huge still gallery, menus and chapter selection.

    The Final Word:

    Umbrella Entertainment’s Blu-ray release of Death Wish IV: The Crackdown / Death Wish 5: The Face Of Death is a good one, worth picking up for anyone with an affinity for Bronson or the Death Wish series. The transfers are strong, the audio is problem free and the commentary tracks from Talbot add a lot of value. The movies themselves? Not the best of the five-film run, but still very much worth seeing and plenty entertaining. Recommended.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      I remember going to set up AV for a corporate gig, and we couldn't get into the building until they were done filming. I asked who was in there, and the security guy says, "Charles Bronson....Death Wish Part 12 or some shit". Wish I would have met him.
    1. moviegeek86's Avatar
      moviegeek86 -
      Ugh I REALLY want this but Zombie 3,4, Shock Dark and Return of Swamp Thing sucked up my funds for the month (movie wise). I want 5 in HD and those commentaries sound great! Next month perhaps.